What happened in Boston was horrible. There really are no words, are there? I was at work on Monday when I got a text from a friend..."OMG turn on the news" she said. Which, of course, is impossible to do when wrangling 19 preschoolers in the large motor room. Instead, my co-worker and I took turns peeking at our phones, getting updates and spelling things out over the heads of the oblivious, happy kids: "They say it was B-O-M-B-S" and "Two D-E-A-D, so far." That sick feeling you get when you know there is something awful unfolding and you are, like everyone else on the planet, helpless to do anything more than think on it. Pray on it.
My kids were all home when I walked in the back door. They were their usual cheery selves (if you're the parent of a herd of teens like I am, you know that comment is only a wee bit facetious), and before I could set my purse down, the WHAT'S FOR DINNER questions bombarded me. I made a couple sandwiches, got out some cauliflower and dill dip, and then changed into my running shoes. "I'll make dinner when I get back" I told the kids. Grabbed the dog's leash, some poop bags and I walked out the front door.
Walter and I walked. And walked, and walked. It was about 6:15 when we started. When I escorted my panting, muddy dog up the front walk it was closing in on 8:15. I couldn't tell you for sure what I thought about for those two hours, or really even where we walked. I just knew I needed to be moving, to be far away from phones or televisions or laptops.
I had to run away for a little bit. Run away from the hashtags and the facebook candles and the instagram pictures of varying creative ways people were telling me to "Pray For Boston".
I started a pot of penne and began chopping. I chopped peppers and mushrooms and onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Took some chicken sausage out of the freezer, thawed it out and chopped that up, too. And as it so often happens, as I cooked..my kids talked.
I told them to turn off the t.v. To come into the kitchen and gab with mom. So they did. The two younger boys at first, then my Molly came out of her room.."Wait..are you guys talking about Boston?" she asked, as she sidled up next to me in front of the stove. As the warm delicious smells of sauteed goodness filled the kitchen, so did their words, their questions.
We talked about what kind of person would do this. "Do you think it was terrorists, mom?" asked Henry. I asked him what he meant by terrorists. "You know, like Osama Bin Laden guys." I told him what I really thought: that I think this was done by "our" guys. Homegrown lunatics. I also told him we'll know soon enough. "Will they catch him, mom?" asked my baby, my almost-teenager William. As I drained the pasta, I assured him that the bad guy will get caught. There's no way he won't, honey, I said.
After we ate, we turned on the news and we watched some of the video taken earlier that day. Watched as people went from cheering and smiling to screaming and grimacing. Watched dozens and dozens of heroes clad in fluorescent yellow (and dozens more wearing running clothes and spectator clothes) flew into unknown dangers to help the fallen. Interviews with people who were there, people who had been unknowingly standing in the wrong place at the wrong time (or, given the fact that they were standing there being interviewed, it seems as though maybe they were in the right place). We watched as our own local newscasters assured us that the Mall of America was safe and that we shouldn't worry about our own little marathon that's held in October. Watched as the screen flashed with Tweets from reporters and facebook updates from celebrities.
And then they started talking about Matt Damon's wedding.
"Time for bed, guys." After they went to bed I decided to check in online. Just for a minute, you know. Took a peek at facebook and after seeing the hundredth candle and several pictures of random, anonymous little kids running in marathons with the words "LIKE AND SHARE OUT OF RESPECT FOR THIS CHILD" (people, really??) decided to shut it down for the night. But..
I made a mistake then. I looked at some pictures. I saw a girl, a young woman, lying on the ground, eyes open wide, jaw slack. She was lifeless, obviously. A rescue worker had a blue-gloved hand at the young woman's neck, feeling for a pulse.
Then, a picture of a young man being pushed, a running, frantic push, in a wheelchair. He was awake and pale and obviously, in shock. He was clutching what was left of his legs, and a man running next to him was holding what appeared to be an artery. Pinching it, as he ran next to the injured fellow.
Why? Why is this okay? I know that this is what our world is now: a world with no privacy, no shelter from any storm. But who decided it was okay to run a picture of a dead woman? Did someone ask the man who was gone from the knees down if it was okay to take his picture? Not only take it, but splash it everywhere online?
What happened in Boston yesterday was brutal and wrong. But what happened online afterwards? That was wrong too. Our social-media driven world is cheapening everything, it's robbing moments like the one in Boston of its intimacy, of its solemnity. We have become a world of rubberneckers, a society of clucking pigeons. Hashtagging and instagramming what we should be thinking and doing. Putting somebody in the spotlight at the worst possible moment in their lives. In the lives of their family members.
I know how curmudgeonly this makes me sound. I know some of you are saying, "Suck it up, Grumpy Old Lady. It's the way things are now." Yes, it's the way things are now. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
There is, literally, nothing I can do to help those hurt in Boston. Aside from pray, and donate whatever bit I have to their recovery funds. I wish I could hop on a plane and go to their hospital rooms and hold their hands. Get them a glass of cold water. Offer to take care of their kids, walk their dogs or feed their cats.
I can't do that. None of us can. But what we can do, is try to make a difference in our own neighborhoods. Put down our phones for a bit. Shut off the laptop. Smile at strangers, give out compliments. Hold doors open, let someone merge in front of us. Be a big tipper.
Let us never lose sight of the humanity around us. The world may be changing, but we are who we have always been. Fellow people. Neighbors. Co-workers. Friends. Let's not lose sight of that, okay?
Here are some other ways to help:
The One Fund Boston: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have
announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, Inc. to help the people
most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15,
The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. The Kraft family has promised to match the first $100k in donations. Good on ya, Kraft...
The Richard Family Fund They went to watch Dad run the Boston Marathon. There are no words.
There are countless other places to donate, these are the first three I came across.